Why are we addicted to hearing about other writers at work? We read interviews to try to glean the magic formula for "how it's done." Even knowing that everyone's creative process is different, we search for inspiration, craft knowledge, ideas, and practices we can use for ourselves. There are plenty of places online that offer interviews with authors, but some curated collections are worth going back to again and again.
One interview collection has come out recently: Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process, by Joe Fassler. He interviews contemporary writers like George Saunders, Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Gilbert, and others. He asks “What inspires you?” and elicits a passage from something they read that was life-changing. Because he interviews an eclectic group, the answers come from a wide range of literary influences.
Of course, there are the classic volumes of The Paris Review Interviews, ed. George Plimpton et al., which feature a more literary bent, with the added bonus of writers being interviewed by writers. These are culled from years of such interviews, so you can read interviews with people like Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, and other acclaimed writers. These have been around a while, but are worth going back to for their discussion of craft, influences, and literary history.
One of my favorite interview collections is The Wand in the Word: Conversations With Writers of Fantasy by Leonard S. Marcus, ed. If you love fantasy, this is a wonderful series of interviews with people like Nancy Farmer, Jane Yolen, Susan Cooper, and Lloyd Alexander - some writers I grew up reading, others I discovered later. They discuss their inspirations, writing rituals and advice for aspiring authors. If like me, you grew up reading fantasy, you’ll love this book (although there were some surprising omissions - I guess you can't include everyone's favorites). Note that it was published in 2006, so omits some of the more modern writers who might be interesting to talk with if a volume II comes out. There is a dearth of writers of color, for example - common when there were relatively few who were well-known, but able, thankfully, to be remedied now. Leonard Marcus? Time for another collection?
Do you have any interview collections you find inspiring? Share them with us in the comments.
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